6 March 2018

Angola: Isabel dos Santos Denies Allegations of Graft at Oil Firm

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Isabel dos Santos

Isabel dos Santos, the former head of Angola's state-owned Sonangol oil company, is denying her successor's allegations that she engaged in questionable business dealings related to the firm.

In a 13-page typed statement released late Sunday, Dos Santos – Africa's richest woman, with a net worth that Forbes business magazine estimates at $2.6 billion – denounced what she called "slanderous" and "defamatory campaigns" against her.

Last week, Sonangol chair Carlos Saturnino reported that an internal audit showed a transaction of $38 million to a company based in Dubai; it had been approved by dos Santos shortly after she was removed from her post in November after roughly 16 months.

Dos Santos defended the transaction as a "totally legitimate" payment for consultancy services. She said she was fulfilling her legal obligations until her replacement could be sworn in, according to Reuters news service.

On Friday, Angola's public prosecutor's office acknowledged it was looking into Saturnino's accusations.

Dos Santos had been appointed chair of Sonangol's board by her father, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Angola's president from 1979 until last September. She was dismissed by his successor, President Joao Lourenco, who vowed to clean up Angola's corruption-tainted economy.

The younger dos Santos' goal was to restructure Sonangol, Reuters reported last November. In 2016, she had fired Saturnino from his job as the oil company's production and exploration leader.

The 2014 nosedive in global oil prices rocked Angola, where, according to the World Bank, oil accounts for a third of gross domestic product and more than 95 percent of the country's exports. As she was leaving office, dos Santos told Sonangol staffers she had rescued the "nearly bankrupt" company by cutting costs, Reuters said.

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